India’s hopes in athletics rest on Anju, Gowda and relay team (Preview)

August 14th, 2008 - 5:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 14 (IANS) India’s chances in showpiece event of the Olympics - track and field - may not be much, but there is always hope in the only world class athlete long jumper Anju Bobby George. Discus thrower Vikas Gowda and the women’s relay team could also come up with some good showings in the event which begins Friday at the National Stadium ‘Bird’s Nest’.

The followers of athletics would be hoping Anju will touch the seven metre mark to be anywhere near the medal region at the Beijing Games.

But since the 2004 Athens Olympics, Anju has been struggling to get her rhythm and her performance has dipped. She jumped 6.83m in Athens but then after her 6.75 in Monaco she has fallen behind and is ranked 16th in the world.

Anju’s best this season has been 6.55 metres in three different meets, and her last major success came three years ago when she won the silver in the World athletics final with a jump of 6.75.

But this might be Anju’s last attempt at the Olympics and she has the knack of raising her standard at international meets. And pumped by Bindra’s gold-medal winning feat one could expect Anju to leap long in Beijing.

The lot of 17 includes six women relay runners in the 4×400m race (Mandeep Kaur, Chitra Soman, S. Geetha, Sini Jose, M.R. Poovamma and K. Mridula) who have raised expectations with their performance in international meets.

The relay team narrowly missed the Olympics berth before making the cut last month clocking 3:28.29 to come 15th in the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix series at Korat, Thailand.

The relay team has been clocking around 3:32-3:33 recently but to make it to the final, they need to raise the bar. All the top five teams have timed 3:22 at the Osaka World championships final and expecting India to be in the medals bracket could be expecting a bit too much.

India’s best bet among male athletes is discus thrower Gowda. The US-based Karnataka youngster Gowda missed a final place in Athens by a whisker, finishing 14th overall.

Gowda’s performance in the New York Grand Prix in May this year, where he finished fourth with a 63.84, certainly makes him a prospect for India at Beijing.

In heptathalon for the first time, three athletes would represent India.

J.J. Shobha is never short of determination and the image of the heptathlete groaning in pain at Athens after completing the 800 metres is forever etched in the memory of Indian sports lovers. She might not have won medals but she won a billion hearts with her determination.

Shobha, who came up with her personal best in four events, finished third in the 800 metre and overall finished a creditable 11th logging 6172 points.

Pramila Aiyappa and Susmita Singha Roy are the other two to join the Beijing-bound team after aggregating 6078 and 6027 points respectively at the Madurai Inter-State meet.

In women’s discus, Krishna Poonia and Harwant Kaur will compete for the country. Their form is not very encouraging though.

Triple jumper Renjith Maheswary had given a good account of himself with a jump of 17.04 m in Guwahati last year. But since then he has struggled to live up to expectations. He cleared 16.30 at the end of the Asian Grand Prix circuit this year.

Distance runners Surendra Singh and Preeja Sreedharan would compete in 10,000 m in men’s and women’s field, while Manjit Kaur takes part in the women’s 400 m.

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